PASS/HSAP: Little Movement in Fairfield Numbers

WINNSBORO – Scores from last spring’s Palmetto Assessment of State Standards (PASS) tests, released last week by the State Department of Education, show numbers holding more or less steady across the board for Fairfield County students in grades three-eight. The District experienced some moderate gains on Writing test scores, while Math scores failed to meet the expectations of Superintendent J.R. Green.

“We are going to launch a full-out assault on attacking math standards for next year,” Green said. “We are going to redouble our efforts to ensure students have a solid math foundation and conceptual understanding of the standards.”

Last year, Green said he was shooting for Math scores in the 80 percent range. That did not transpire, as the percentage of students scoring Met or Exemplary ranged from 48.3 in seventh grade to a high of 65.3 in eighth grade.

Fairfield Elementary saw upticks in the percentage of students scoring Not Met in Math in grades three-six, with the largest drop off coming between fourth-graders in 2013 (51.4 percent Not Met) and fifth-graders in 2014 (62.1 percent Not Met). Fairfield Magnet School for Math and Science, meanwhile, saw some improvements, with the percentage of students scoring Not Met decreasing somewhat between 2013 and 2014. Those numbers were marred, however, by the comparison between 2013 fourth-graders (2.6 percent Not Met) and 2014 fifth-graders (18.4 percent Not Met).

“I set the bar high,” Green said. “(80 percent) was an aggressive goal and I don’t back off from that. We will continue to push for it.”

Social Studies scores were also largely unmoved, with gains between 2013 fifth-graders (41 percent Not Met) and 2014 sixth-graders (23.3 percent Not Met) offset by losses elsewhere. McCrorey-Liston Elementary saw some of the biggest gains in the subject between 2013 third-graders (40 percent Not Met, 60 percent Met and Exemplary) and 2014 fourth-graders (5.9 percent Not Met, 94.1 percent Met and Exemplary).

Overall, the District lost a few percentage points in English Language Arts (ELA), while Writing scores increased at every grade level.

“Writing was one of our bright spots, across the board,” Green said. “We pretty much went up at every school.”

District wide, the biggest gain came between fourth-grades in 2013 (56.7 percent Met and Exemplary) and fifth-graders in 2014 (73.8 percent Met and Exemplary).

Science scores were also modestly improved across the board, with sixth-graders in 2013 (53.7 percent Met and Exemplary) performing much better as seventh-graders in 2014 (70.6 percent Met and Exemplary). Although Fairfield Elementary’s Science numbers took a hit between grades four and five , with 66.2 percent of 2013 fourth-graders scoring Not Met compared with 81.3 percent of 2014 fifth-graders scoring Not Met, the same transitioning class at the Magnet School saw their percentage of students scoring at Met and Exemplary go from 97.4 percent in 2013 to 100 percent in 2014.

“We had a pretty big year in 2012,” Green said. “Of course, I would like to continue to see that kind of growth every year, but it’s not realistic to expect to be in a perpetual state of growth. We’ve set the bar high, but we have to be reasonable. We want to create substantial levels of achievement, and not just blips on the radar.”

HSAP

The District’s High School Assessment Program (HSAP) test scores also remained virtually constant with 2013 numbers. In ELA, the percentage of students scoring at Level 1 (did not demonstrate competence) was up by a decimal point, from 13 percent last year to 13.1 percent in 2014. The percentage of students scoring at Level 4 (exceptional) fell from 16.6 in 2013 to 14.1 this year, while the percentage of students meeting HSAP standards ticked downward from 87 percent last year to 86.9 in 2014.

In Mathematics, the percentage of students scoring at Level 1 crept up from 33.2 in 2013 to 35 in 2014, while the percentage of students scoring at Level 4 dropped from 13.5 in 2013 to just 4.9 in 2014. The percentage of students meeting the HSAP standards also fell from 66.8 to 65.

Green said the math scores represent a conundrum, as this is the first year in which the District’s End of Course (EOC) scores did not trail the HSAP scores. The District experienced significant gains in EOC scores in Algebra I, Green said (that data has not yet been made public by the Department of Education), and in years prior those gains have translated into even higher numbers on the HSAP exam. This year, however, that was not the case.

“Our End of Course scores in Algebra I are good,” Green said. “For the same kids a year later to test 15 points lower on the HSAP is a problem.”

Green speculated that some specialized math teachers may be teaching fewer HSAP standards and more standards specific to their particular branch of math – geometry, for example – during the year. The District will not get the opportunity to address that problem directly, however, as HSAP will be replaced next year by an as yet unknown assessment test, testing for an as yet unspecified set of standards.